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UPM – Improving the innovation capability

The Challenge
In the current global environment, there is a saturation of the markets for graphic paper. The digital transformation of media puts further pressure on this demand. Several years ago, UPM laid the ground for its transformation. In a bold move, the company redefined itself to become “The Biofore Company”, combining expertise and technologies within fibre-based, energy-related and engineered materials businesses. In the strategy, the company aimed to create value from renewable and recyclable materials. To this end, the company has shifted focus to accelerate its transformation.

The Engagement
The company decided to make R&D an active partner in the transformation, not only generating more ideas but also guiding ideas throughout the innovation process to generate new profitable products. All R&D projects are linked to the strategy through strategic portfolio management. In a dialogue between the executive team of R&D and  corporate HR, a new management development programme for R&D managers was created. The purpose was to boost innovation management, to develop the leadership in R&D and to accelerate strategy implementation.

UPM and the School of Executive Education worked together to detail a requirement specification and to design a programme on Innovation Management. The programme was designed as a modular programme consisting of three face-to-face modules (3 + 3 + 4 days) separated in time to create a programme with a total duration of six months. The first programme cycle was delivered in 2007 and has been delivered annually since. Every new cycle of the programme is upgraded to reflect current challenges at UPM. Over the years, the target audience broadened from encompassing only R&D managers, to those from related functions such as product management and customer service.

Programme modules have been delivered in Finland, Poland and China. A virtual learning environment has been established on the corporate intranet to further support the programme and the innovation processes in the company. The programme covers a set of themes from business strategy to innovation and leadership.

The Result
Along with the programme, the participants work in groups on capstone project assignments. On the final day of the programme, the participants present the recommendations to top management, where many of the proposed recommendations are expected to be implemented throughout the company.

The programme creates a setting that allows interpersonal interactions across functions, cultures and geographies.Over the years, more than 140 managers and experts have participated in the programme. They all share a common vocabulary and have improved strategic thinking and mastery of the innovation processes. By facilitating work across these boundaries, the company improves the overall corporate performance and accelerates the transformation of UPM.

About the company
UPM is a multinational company headquartered in Finland. Fibre- and biomass based businesses, recyclable raw materials and products are cornerstones of UPM’s business. UPM comprises of three independent business groups: Energy and Pulp, Paper and Engineered materials. The Group employs around 24,000 people and it has production plants in 16 countries. UPM’s annual sales exceed EUR 10 billion. UPM’s shares are listed on the Helsinki stock exchange.

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